If you have cows’ milk (or dairy cheese, butter, or ice cream) in your fridge or freezer, you also have about three times more greenhouse gas emissions under your belt than someone who purchased vegan alternatives. What makes plant-based milk so much better for the environment than milk stolen from cows?
The Dairy Industry Is Milking Natural Resources Dry
Drinking vegan milk – and eating vegan cheese, butter, and ice cream – instead of dairy makes a huge positive impact on the environment, because animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of the climate catastrophe.
In its most recent Livestock Census, the Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, reported that India’s total population of farmed animals (not including birds) is 535.78 million, an increase of 4.6% in just eight years. Methane, which has a 100-year global-warming potential 28 to 34 times that of carbon dioxide, is a byproduct of enteric fermentation by the ruminant animals raised for meat and dairy.
Unsurprisingly, a study by the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and the Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram University of Science and Technology, Murthal, revealed that methane produced by India’s farmed animal population can significantly raise global temperatures. Cattle and buffalo were found by the study to be the major sources of methane among India’s farmed animal population, accounting for 98%.
Rainforests, prairies, and wetlands are systematically destroyed and converted to farmland in order to grow the enormous amount of crops needed to feed cows.
A 2022 study found that by phasing out animal agriculture worldwide and making a global switch to plant-based food, we could effectively halt the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases for 30 years – and give humanity time to end its reliance on fossil fuels, the other leading cause of the climate catastrophe. There is hope for saving our planet, and the answer could be as simple as drinking a glass of your favourite vegan milk.
Vegan Milk Is Delicious, Nutritious, and Sustainable
No matter what kind of plant-based milk you choose, you’ll have a positive impact on the environment. A 2018 study estimates that the production of dairy milk is around three times more greenhouse gas emission–intensive than the production of plant-based milks, and cows’ milk generally requires nine times more land than any of the plant-based options.
Not only do almond, coconut, and hazelnut milks need much less land to produce than dairy milk, the trees on which the nuts or fruits grow also absorb carbon and, at the end of their life, produce useful woody biomass. If you prefer milk from legumes – like soy, pea, or hemp milk – your choice is helping to improve soil structure and limiting the need for pesticides, as legumes are hardy plants that suppress the growth of weeds naturally. Millet milk is one of the most sustainable options because it requires comparably less water and fertiliser to produce than any other vegan milk currently available.
Additionally, plant-based milks offer loads of calcium and other nutrients. You will likely prefer different non-dairy milks for using in coffee and baking and for sipping, so experiment and find out which work best for you. And be sure to check out other dairy-free products like vegan cheese, yogurt, sour cream, and butter.
Drinking Cows’ Milk Is Not Natural At All
There’s nothing natural about humans’ consumption of dairy. Cows produce milk for the same reason humans do – to nourish their young. Dairy industry workers forcibly impregnate cows, take their babies within the first few days after birth, and then steal the cow’s milk until the next year, when she is artificially inseminated again. A cow’s natural life expectancy is about 20 years, but cows used by the dairy industry are typically killed after about five years because their bodies wear out from constant pregnancy and lactation.
In India, the “spent” cows are commonly abandoned or sent to slaughter when their bodies give out. Male calves, considered of little to no use by the dairy industry since they cannot produce milk, are routinely abandoned, left to starve, or sent to be killed (and those abroad are commonly turned into veal).
What Can You Do to Help?
Choose an animal- and environment-friendly lifestyle – go vegan!